Liberalizing the Practice of Foreign Professionals in the Philippines: Less Opportunities, More Threats?

In my blog last August 29, 2013, I wrote my reservations about the ASEAN integration and allowing foreign professionals to practice their trade in the Philippines.

One of the reasons why “I beg to disagree” was my bad experiences in working with, or being associated with a multinational foreign group. Since the early 90’s, Cuervo Appraisers Inc. had foreign affiliations but at the end of the day, the bottom line was that the local counterpart in this case the Cuervo’s had to foot in the ” bill” and pay for the foreign “expats” their expensive tastes for housing, high salaries, costly over head and expenses. It would have been good if profits were shared equitably but in this case, they always manage to get a better bargain with the locals who did most of the work, were short changed.

A foreign professional in the Philippines can always “jump ship” or leave the country and abandon the local partner with their debts. And this was the unfortunate experience that we, at Cuervo Appraisers Inc. had. Our objective then, in being associated with an international real estate group, was to advance in our professional competence,  to benefit from the transfer of technology  and to seek opportunities in the global market.

Sad to say, they even added more “insult to injury”, because this foreign real estate corporation, after having learned the “ropes” on how, who, and where to do business, conveniently went on their own. They learned how the local conditions were, and got to network with our clients, and tapping your best employees, engineers and appraisers. They managed to set up a “new” foreign real estate corporation, and this time no longer needed us.

Not only did you have to pay their debts, but also they took with them our big ticket clients, being also foreign in nature, our employees and skilled real estate practitioners and appraisers. They are around practicing the real estate profession in the Philippines after having used and abused our local hospitality, kindness and generosity.

It is unfortunate that even if our laws prohibit foreigners to practice the real estate profession in the Philippines, they manage to “get  away” by using  Filipino “partners” or ” incorporators” that are usually legal firms or lawyers.

Even if I pointed out this illegal practice at the Security and Exchange Commission, it seems that no one lifted a finger to investigate. My concerns and issues about the illegal practice of corporate real estate led nowhere. Yes, we can be armed with the R.A. 9646, but somehow,  they managed to find a way around using Section 32 of the Real Estate Service Act on ” Corporate Practice of Real Estate”.

Ironically, even if I sit as a board member of the Professional Regulatory Board of Real Estate Service and requested the support of the PRC Commissioners, their reaction was not beneficial and contrary to my interpretation on Section 32 which requires that all real estate practitioners be licensed.

I feel that the local professionals are at a disadvantage. There is a strong bias for “imports”. We, Filipinos are prejudiced and it is our own fellow Filipinos who favor foreigners. Even some of our own government agencies and departments,  like the  SEC , Department of Finance, Philippine Stock Exchange, GSIS, to name a few.

Clearly, we are still having deeply rooted “colonial mentality”. How can a Filipino be treated like “stranger” in his own country? Why are there double standards and a strong bias for foreign professionals against equally competent Filipino practitioners?

We are aware that Philippines is one of the world’s top labor-exporting nations. Large numbers of Filipinos are leaving the country in search of work abroad, but now our home is suffering from skills shortage. Do you think it is okay to allow foreigners to work in the country?

In an interview, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said that based on a study conducted by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)’s Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES), there is a need “to liberalize the labor market and allow entry of foreign workers with the required skills so we can fill up those hard to fill occupations due to shortage”. Among the skills in the occupational shortage list are architect, chemical engineer, chemist, environmental planner, fisheries technologist, geologist, guidance counselor, licensed librarian, medical technologist, sanitary engineer, computer numerical control machinist, assembly technician, test technician, pilot and aircraft mechanic.

Hundreds of thousands of skilled Filipinos can do the job mentioned above if given the chance and if without discrimination. On the other hand, the offers abroad pay much higher than here in the Philippines. My question is, “How much will the DOLE approve for salaries and other benefits of the foreign workers will receive from the jobs being offered?”.

There are estimated 2.2 million OFW’s working abroad, because aside from receiving low salary, some are being discriminated, let’s face it! Some of the companies in the country discriminates applicants because of their age, physical appearance, race and other self imposed limitations which made them become unqualified for the job. In my advocacy for the rights of persons with disabilities ( PWD’s) are in a disadvantage of being hired or finding a job suitable to their disability or limitations. Our constitution and bill of rights that all be treated equally and given the right opportunity to education, work and/or livelihood must be duly protected, supported and enforced by our laws. The problem is, there is strong resistance and acceptability by our society and civil authorities who are insensitive or couldn’t care less for the needs of persons with disabilities.

Another threat of having foreigners in the country is the increase in the number of foreign criminals and fugitives. Philippines reached 659 in 2013, the Bureau of Immigration revealed. The suspects were accused of having involvement in forgery and extortion, cybercrime, pornography or sexual conducts, and financial crimes such as fraud and theft.

But my estimates are much more than those recorded, I would say that these foreign criminals could reach thousands. They may not look “criminal” but they come as “men in black” usually very well dressed, driving luxury  cars, residing in most expensive homes and holding offices in prestigious addresses. These foreign “men in black” in my experience, those who  go around seeking real estate transactions , but instead, form part of syndicates,  that either launder money or are ” con artists ” and ready to grab an opportunity to commit  fraud against a naive property owner, real estate broker, or unaware sellers or buyers.

I  always advise my fellow real state practitioners not to fall into the trap or getting blind by external appearances or “face value” we ought to always make a background investigation, undertake due diligence and even hire a ” detective”  when it comes to dealing with “men in black” or ” foreign investors”.

In a memorandum issued on January 7, 2014 by the Philippine Regulation Commission for the Engineering, Health and Allied, Technology, Business, Education, and Economic Professions, requesting the comments on the draft Bill on the Liberalization of Professions and. Senate Bill No. 1424, entitled “An Act Amending the Republic Act No. 8179, otherwise known as the Foreign Investment Act of 1991, and for other Purposes”. This act was introduced by Senator Joseph Victor G. Ejercito.


Philippine Star

This entry was posted in Economics, Finance, International, Philippine Government, Real Estate, Sales, Tourism. Bookmark the permalink.

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